Roger Federer and the Giants: Can Kevin Anderson, John Isner or Milos Raonic serve the great Swiss out of Wimbledon?

Leye Aduloju in Wimbledon 10 Jul 2018
  • Roger Federer must take down Kevin Anderson, and one of Milos Raonic or John Isner if he is to get into the Wimbledon final
  • Federer is 20-5 against Anderson, Raonic and Isner combined
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Roger Federer remains the overwhelming favourite to win the Wimbledon title, but the great Swiss must take down a pair of giants if he is to move into Sunday’s final.

Even before the first ball was served, Federer was almost expected to stroll to the title, and he has so far had a nice uncomplicated route. Can any of Kevin Anderson, Milos Raonic or John Isner throw a spanner, or in this case, a serve into the pristine works of the great Swiss?

Federer already had an extremely favourable draw, which somehow jammed seasoned Grand Slam champions, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro along with the best of the young pretenders, Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem into the bottom half- even Andy Murray was stuck in there before he wisely pulled out of the melee, leaving Federer with a seemingly wide open path into the semi-finals, and then, there were the ‘upsets’, which cleared out the highest-ranked adversaries in his half and potential semi-final opponents, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov. It has been the classic case of ‘stars aligning’ for the great man. 

And so, while Nadal, Djokovic and del Potro, oh, add a revived Kei Nishikori to that list scramble for one spot in the final, Roger Federer is left to battle Kevin Anderson, Milos Raonic and John Isner for the final ticket from the top half.

Federer has never truly been bothered by big servers- he would not have eight Wimbledon titles if he was- but there is just something simplistic about these big boys that make them so dangerous. All they have to do is to get it right on the day, and boom, you are in a spot of bother.

While Nadal and Djokovic would be fixated on how to expose Federer’s single-handed backhand off the ground, Raonic, Isner and Anderson aren’t the least bit interested in that. If the ball comes back with any bit of purchase, they will most likely lose the point anyway.

The game plan is very simple, serve hard, accurate and clever, and take the set into a tie break if you can. And once a set gets into a breaker, anything can happen, and by the rule of thumb, the big-server should have the edge.

Of the three remaining players in Federer’s half, Milos Raonic is arguably the most dangerous. 

The former world number three was always going to be a big threat if he managed to avoid the injuries that have set him back for the last year and a half, and he has so far reported a clean bill of health; and has served his way into the last eight. Raonic boasts three wins over Federer, including that famous five-set triumph at Wimbledon in 2016. John Isner has beaten Federer on two occasions, including bizarrely, one on clay from a Davis Cup tie in 2012, while Kevin Anderson has not taken a set off Federer in four attempts.

Federer is 11-3 against Raonic; 5-2 against Isner and 4-0 against Anderson- that’s a combined 20-5. Dominant, yes, but it does suggest that the opponent has a fighting chance, or a serving chance, if you like.

While I talk up the big-serving prowess of Isner, Raonic and Anderson, I have not forgotten Federer’s own service numbers, which have been off the charts in the first four rounds. Truth is that Federer has not really been tested either on serve or on return. Jan-Lennard Struff is the only big server he has faced, but the German is nowhere near as consistent from the line as Federer’s upcoming opponents. The Swiss played comfort of knowing he could earn service breaks in his dream…

But what happens when the pressure is turned on? When he knows he has to hang on to his serves because he may not get as many looks as return? Pressure, you know, can do the strangest things even to the greatest of men?

Federer will probably go on and ease into the final. He will take calculated risks on return, get the big men bending awkwardly to earth with his vicious, wicked slice backhand, with every other thing taking care of itself.

Federer's progress has so far been majestic, bit it has also been a monotonous procession; we can at least allow ourselves to get excited by the possibility, however remote, of the great Swiss getting tested by Anderson, Isner or Raonic.

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Roger Federer and the Giants: Can Kevin Anderson, John Isner or Milos Raonic serve the great Swiss out of Wimbledon?

Roger Federer must take down a pair of big servers if he is to advance to the Wimbledon final.

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